Nantou Distillery and
the “other” Taiwanese whisky
Mention Taiwanese whisky these days, and there’s a good chance people will respond with “Oh, you mean Kavalan?”
…and it’s not hard to see why. In Just over 11 years, the distillery has won a plethora of awards, and is regularly held up as a poster child of how good “New World Whiskies” can be.
Kavalan however is not the only Taiwanese whisky. In 2008, the State-owned Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corporation (TTL) produced its first Malt whisky at Nantou Whisky Distillery, and has been producing increasingly high-quality single malt whisky since (see last month’s issue for Jackson Wu’s thoughts on their latest peated release).
Located in the Central East of Taiwan, just over a 2 hour drive from Taipei, Nantou produces whisky under the “OMAR” name (Gaelic for “amber”). Whilst the distillery primarily matures whisky in Spanish Sherry casks and American Bourbon casks, they have also produced some fascinating whiskies finished in fruit liqueur barrels, including lychee liqueur and the popular “Black Queen” plum liqueur finished whisky.
The distillery uses two pairs of copper pot stills (9,000L / 5,000L wash stills, and 5,000L / 2,000L spirit stills), eight stainless steel washbacks (the sub-tropical climate makes the use of wooden washbacks impractical), and one lauter tun, along with three malt storage tanks (50 tons each).
Barley is not sourced locally (due to the hot climate), but rather from Scotland. Water on the other hand, is sourced from the surrounding area for its pure and unpolluted nature. Due to the intense summer heat, whisky production only takes place from October to April.
On a recent trip to Taiwan, I picked up two single cask, cask strength OMAR whiskies – a 6 year old ex-Sherry expression and a 5 year old ex-Bourbon expression. Being un-chill filtered, cask strength and single cask, I figured this would give me a great insight into the spirit, and different styles of maturation undertaken by the distillery.
Nantou OMAR Cask Strength ex-Bourbon #11110097 !V 5yo, 54.1% ABV
Light golden straw in colour, this whisky has taken on an impressively complex collection of flavours in just 5 years. The nose is initially grassy and herbaceous, but soon shows coconut, pencil shavings and some milk bottle chews / lollies. The palate is initially dry, but evolves over time to be sweeter with pineapple, mango and caramel (water helps). There’s a long, smooth and creamy finish. My favourite.
Nantou OMAR Cask Strength ex-Sherry #21091313 !V 6yo, 58.4% ABV
Copper-orange in colour, the nose is much sweeter than the ex-Bourbon, with berries, red apples, milk chocolate and hints of oak. The palate is somewhat tannic, but shows typical (sweeter, perhaps PX) sherry characteristics of raisins, brazil nuts and pot-pourri. Water increases the oak. The finish is sweet and oaky.
For a such a young distillery to produce such impressive whiskies in a short period of time (in challenging conditions) is remarkable. We should all look forward to see what high quality whiskies Nantou continue to produce in the future!
Kavalan並不是台灣唯一的威士忌生產公司，2008年臺灣菸酒公司(TTL)更在南投威士忌酒廠釀造它第一枚麥芽威士忌，自此一直釀造越來越高品質的單一麥芽威士忌 (上期有提及Jackson Wu對他們最新推出的泥煤味的感想)。
酒廠使用兩對銅製蒸餾器(9000公升/5000公升wash stills，和5000公升/2000公升spirit stills)，八個不銹鋼發酵槽(亞熱帶天氣導致木製發酵槽失效)，和伴隨三個麥芽儲存罐(50噸重)的萊特糖化槽。